My experiment with truth autobiography of gandhijee
M. K. Gandhi AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY ORThe story of my experiments with truthTRANSLATED FROM THE GUJARATI BY MAHADEV DESAI GANDHI BOOK CENTRE Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal 299, Tardeo Raod, Nana Chowk Bombay - 7 INDIA 3872061 email: info @ mkgandhi-sarvodaya.org www: mkgandhi-sarvodaya.org NAVAJIVAN PUBLISHING HOUSE AHMEDABAD-380014
Chapter 1 BIRTH AND PARENTAGET he Gandhis belong to the Bania caste and seem to have been originally grocers. But for threegenerations, from my grandfather, they have been Prime Ministers in several Kathiawad States.Uttamchand Gandhi, alias Ota Gandhi, my grandfather, must have been a man of principle. Stateintrigues compelled him to leave Porbandar, where he was Diwan, and to seek refuge inJunagadh. There he saluted the Nawab with the left hand. Someone, noticing the apparentdiscourtesy, asked for an explanation, which was given thus: The right hand is already pledgedto Porbandar.Ota Gandhi married a second time, having lost his first wife. He had four sons by his first wife andtwo by his second wife. I do not think that in my childhood I ever felt or knew that these sons ofOta Gandhi were not all of the same mother. The fifth of these six brothers was KaramchandGandhi, alias Kaba Gandhi, and the sixth was Tulsidas Gandhi. Both these brothers were PrimeMinisters in Porbandar, one after the other. Kaba Gandhi was my father. He was a member of theRajasthanik Court. It is now extinct, but in those days it was a very influential body for settlingdisputes between the chiefs and their fellow clansmen. He was for some time Prime Minister inRajkot and then in Vankaner. He was a pensioner of the Rajkot State when he died.Kaba Gandhi married four times in succession, having lost his wife each time by death. He hadtwo daughters by his first and second marriages. His last wife, Putlibai, bore him a daughter andthree sons, I being the youngest.My father was a lover of his clan, truthful, brave and generous, but short-tempered. To a certainextent he might have been given to carnal pleasures. For he married for the fourth time when hewas over forty. But he was incorruptible and had earned a name for strict impartiality in his familyas well as outside. His loyalty to the state was well known. An Assistant Political Agent spokeinsultingly of the Rajkot Thakore Saheb, his chief, and he stood up to the insult. The Agent wasangry and asked Kaba Gandhi to apologize. This he refused to do and was therefore kept underdetention for a few hours. But when the Agent saw that Kaba Gandhi was adamant, he orderedhim to be released.My father never had any ambition to accumulate riches and left us very little property.He had no education, save that of experience. At best, he might be said to have read up to thefifth Gujarati standard. Of history and geography he was innocent. But his rich experience ofpractical affairs stood him in good stead in the solution of the most intricate questions and inmanaging hundreds of men. Of religious training he had very little, but he had that kind ofreligious culture which frequent visits to temples and listening to religious discourses makeavailable to many Hindus. In his last days he began reading the Gita at the instance of a learnedBrahman friend of the family, and he used to repeat aloud some verses every day at the time ofworship.The outstanding impression my mother has left on my memory is that of saintliness. She wasdeeply religious. She would not think of taking her meals without her daily prayers. Going toHaveli -the Vaishnava temple-was one of her daily duties. As far as my memory can go back, I donot remember her having ever missed the Chaturmas . She would take the hardest vows andkeep them without flinching. Illness was no excuse for relaxing them. I can recall her once fallingill when she was observing the Chandrayana vow, but the illness was not allowed to interrupt theobservance. To keep two or three consecutive fasts was nothing to her. Living on one meal a day
during Chaturmas was a habit with her. Not content with that she fasted every alternate dayduring one Chaturmas . During another Chaturmas she vowed not to have food without seeingthe sun. We children on those days would stand, staring at the sky, waiting to announce theappearance of the sun to our mother. Everyone knows that at the height of the rainy season thesun often does not condescend to show his face. And I remember days when, at his suddenappearance, we would rush and announce it to her, She would run out to se with her own eyes,but by that time the fugitive sun would be gone, thus depriving her of her meal. "That does notmatter," she would say cheerfully, "God did not want me to eat today." And then she would returnto her round of duties.My mother had strong commonsense. She was well informed about all matters of state, andladies of the court thought highly of her intelligence. Often I would accompany her, exercising theprivilege of childhood, and I still remember many lively discussions she had with the widowedmother of the Thakore Saheb.Of these parents I was born at Porbandar, otherwise known as Sudamapuri, on the 2nd October,1869, I passed my childhood in Porbandar. I recollect having been put to school. It was with somedifficulty that I got through the multiplication tables. The fact that I recollect nothing more of thosedays than having learnt, in company with other boys, to call our teacher all kinds of names, wouldstrongly suggest that my intellect must have been sluggish, and my memory raw. Chapter 2 CHILDHOODI must have been about seven when my father left Porbandar for Rajkot to become a member ofthe Rajasthanik Court. There I was put into a primary school, and I can well recollect those days,including the names and other particulars of the teachers who taught me. As at Porbandar, sohere, there is hardly anything to note about my studies. I could only have been a mediocrestudent. From this school I went to the suburban school and thence to the high school, havingalready reached my twelfth year. I do not remember having ever told a lie, during this shortperiod, either to my teachers or to my school-mates, I used to be very shy and avoided allcompany. My books and my lessons were my sole companions. To be at school at the stroke ofthe hour and to run back home as soon as the school closed-that was my daily habit. I literally ranback, because I could not bear to talk to anybody. I was even afraid lest anyone should poke funat me.There is an incident which occurred at the examination during my first year at the high school andwhich is worth recording. Mr Giles, the educational Inspector, had come on a visit of inspection.He had set us five words to write as a spelling exercise. One of the words was Kettle. I had mis-spelt it. The teacher tried to prompt me with the point of his boot, but I would not be prompted. Itwas beyond me to see that he wanted me to copy the spelling from my neighbours slate, for Ihad thought that the teacher was there to supervise us against copying. The result was that allthe boys, except myself, were found to have spelt every word correctly. Only I had been stupid.The teacher tried later to bring this stupidity home to me. but without effect. I never could learnthe art of copying.Yet the incident did not in the least diminish my respect for my teacher. I was by nature, blind tothe faults of elders. Later I came to know of many other failings of this teacher, but my regard forhim remained the same. For I had learnt to carry out the orders of elders, not to scan theiractions.
Two other incidents belonging to the same period have always clung to my memory. As a rule Ihad a distaste for any reading beyond my school books. The daily lessons had to be done,because I disliked being taken to task by my teacher as much as I disliked deceiving him.Therefore I would do the lessons, but often without my mind in them. Thus when even thelessons could not be done properly, there was of course no question of any extra reading. Butsomehow my eyes fell on a book purchased by my father. It was Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka (aplay about Sharavanas devotion to his parents). I read it with intense interest. There came to ourplace about the same time itinerant showmen. One of the pictures I was shown was of Shravanacarrying, by means of slings fitted for his shoulders, his blind parents on a pilgrimage. The bookand the picture left an indelible impression on my mind. Here is an example for you to copy, Isaid to myself. The agonized lament of the parents over Shravanas death is still fresh in mymemory. The melting tune moved me deeply, and I played it on a concertina which my father hadpurchased for me.There was a similar incident connected with another play. Just about this time, I had secured myfathers permission to see a play performed by a certain dramatic company. This play-Harishchandra- captured my heart. I could never be tired of seeing it. But how often should I bepermitted to go? It haunted me and I must have acted Harishchandra to myself times withoutnumber. Why should not all be truthful like Harishchandra? was the question I asked myself dayand night. To follow truth and to go through all the ordeals Harishchandra went through was theone ideal it inspired in me. I literally believed in the story of Harishchandra. The thought of it alloften made me weep. My commonsense tells me today that Harishchandra could not have beena historical character. Still both Harishchandra and Shravana are living realities for me, and I amsure I should be moved as before if I were to read those plays again today. Chapter 3 CHILD MARRIAGEMuch as I wish that I had not to write this chapter, I know that I shall have to swallow manysuch bitter draughts in the course of this narrative. And I cannot do otherwise, if I claim to be aworshipper of Truth. It is my painful duty to have to record here my marriage at the age ofthirteen. As I see the youngsters of the same age about me who are under my care, and think ofmy own marriage, I am inclined to pity myself and to congratulate them on having escaped my lot.I can see no moral argument in support of such a preposterously early marriage.Let the reader make no mistake. I was married, not betrothed. For in Kathiawad there are twodistinct rites, betrothal and marriage. Betrothal is a preliminary promise on the part of the parentsof the boy and the girl to join them in marriage, and it is not inviolable. The death of the boyentails no widowhood on the girl. It is an agreement purely between the parents, and the childrenhave no concern with it. Often they are not even informed of it. It appears that I was betrothedthrice, though without my knowledge. I was told that two girls chosen for me had died in turn, andtherefore I infer that I was betrothed three times. I have a faint recollection, however, that the thirdbetrothal took place in my seventh year. But I do not recollect having been informed about it. Inthe present chapter I am talking about my marriage, of which I have the clearest recollection.It will be remembered that we were three brothers. The first was already married. The eldersdecided to marry my second brother, who was two or three years my senior,a cousin, possibly a
year older, and me, all at the same time. In doing so there was no thought of our welfare, muchless our wishes. It was purely a question of their own convenience and economy.Marriage among Hindus is no simple matter. The parents of the bride and the bridegroom oftenbring themselves to ruin over it. They waste their substance, they waste their time. Months aretaken up over the preparations in making clothes and ornaments and in preparing budgets fordinners. Each tries to outdo the other in the number and variety of courses to be prepared.Women, whether they have a voice or no, sing themselves hoarse, even get ill, and disturb thepeace of their neighbours. these in their turn quietly put up with all the turmoil and bustle all thedirt and filth, representing the remains of the feasts, because they know that a time will comewhen they also will be behaving in the same manner.It would be better, thought my elders, to have all this bother over at one and the same time. Lessexpense and greater eclat. For money could be freely spent if it had only to be spent once insteadof thrice. My father and my uncle were both old, and we were the last children they had to marry.it is likely that they wanted to have the last best time of their lives. In view of all theseconsiderations, a triple wedding was decided upon, and as I have said before, months were takenup in preparation for it.It was only through these preparations that we got warning of the coming event. I do not think itmeant to me anything more than the prospect of good clothes to wear, drum beating, marriageprocessions, rich dinners and a strange girl to play with. The carnal desire came later. I proposeto draw the curtain over my shame, except for a few details worth recording. To these I shallcome later. But even they have little to do with the central idea I have kept before me in writingthis story.So my brother and I were both taken to Porbandar from Rajkot. There are some amusing detailsof the preliminaries to the final drama e.g. smearing our bodies all over with turmeric paste but Imust omit them.My father was a Diwan, but nevertheless a servant, and all the more so because he was in favourwith the Thakore Saheb. The latter would not let him go until the last moment. And when he didso, he ordered for my father special stage coaches, reducing the journey by two days. But thefates had willed otherwise. Porbandar is 120 miles from Rajkot, a cart journey of five days. Myfather did the distance in three, but the coach toppled over in the third stage, and he sustainedsevere injuries. He arrived bandaged all over. Both his and our interest in the coming event washalf destroyed, but the ceremony had to be gone through. For how could the marriage dates bechanged? However, I forgot my grief over my fathers injuries in the childish amusement of thewedding.I was devoted to my parents. but no less was I devoted to the passions that flesh is heir to. I hadyet to learn that all happiness and pleasure should be sacrificed in devoted service to my parents.And yet, as though by way of punishment for my desire for pleasures, an incident happened,which has ever since rankled in my mind and which I will relate later. Nishkulanand sings:Renunciation of objects, without the renunciation of desires, is short-lived, however hard you maytry. Whenever I sing this song or hear it sung, this bitter untoward incident, rushes to my memoryand fills me with shame.My father put on a brave face in spite of his injuries, and took full part in the wedding. As I think ofit, I can even today call before my minds eye the places where he sat as he went through thedifferent details of the ceremony. Little did I dream then that one day I should severely criticize myfather for having married me as a child. Everything on that day seemed to me own right andproper and pleasing. There was also my own eagerness to get married. And as everything thatmy father did then struck me as beyond reproach, the recollection of those things is fresh in my
memory. I can picture to myself, even today, how we sat on our wedding dais, how we performedthe Saptapadi how we, the newly wedded husband and wife, put the sweet Kansar into eachothers mouth, and how we began to live together. And oh! that first night.Two innocent childrenall unwittingly hurled themselves into the ocean of life. My brothers wife had thoroughly coachedme about my behaviour on the first night. I do not know who had coached my wife. I have neverasked her about it, nor am I inclined to do so now. The reader may be sure that we were toonervous to face each other. We were certainly too shy. How was I to talk to her, and what was I tosay? The coaching could not carry me far. But no coaching is really necessary in such matters.The impressions of the former birth are potent enough to make all coaching superfluous. Wegradually began to know each other, and to speak freely together. We were the same age. but Itook no time in assuming the authority of a husband. Chapter 4 PLAYING THE HUSBANDAbout the time of my marriage, little pamphlets costing a pice, or a pie (I now forget howmuch), used to be issued, in which conjugal love, thrift, child marriages, and other such subjectswere discussed. Whenever I came across any of these, I used to go through them cover to cover,and it was a habit with me to forget what I did not like, and to carry out in practice whatever Iliked. Lifelong faithfulness to the wife, inculcated in these booklets as the duty of the husband,remained permanently imprinted on my heart. Furthermore, the passion for truth was innate inme, and to be false to her was therefore out of the question. And then there was very little chanceof my being faithless at that tender age.But the lesson of faithfulness had also untoward effect. If I should be pledged to be faithful to mywife, she also should be pledged to be faithful to me, I said to myself. The thought made me ajealous husband. Her duty was easily converted into my right to exact faithfulness from her, and ifit had to be exacted, I should be watchfully tenacious of the right. I had absolutely no reason tosuspect my wifes fidelity, but jealousy does not wait for reasons. I must needs be for ever on thelook-out regarding her movements, and therefore she could not go anywhere without mypermission. This sowed the seeds of a bitter quarrel between us. The restraint was virtually a sortof imprisonment. And Kasturbai was not the girl to brook any such thing. She made it a point togo out whenever and wherever she liked. More restraint on my part resulted in more liberty beingtaken by her, and in my getting more and more cross. Refusal to speak to one another thusbecame the order of the day with us, married children. I think it was quite innocent of Kasturbai tohave taken those liberties with my restrictions. How could a guileless girl brook any restraint ongoing to the temple or on going on visits to friends? If I had the right to impose restrictions on her,had not she also a similar right? All this is clear to me today. But at that time I had to make goodmy authority as a husband!Let not the reader think, however, that ours was a life of unrelieved bitterness. For my severitieswere all based on love. I wanted to make my wife an ideal wife. My ambition was to make her livea pure life, learn what I learnt,and identify her life and thought with mine.I do not know whether Kasturbai had any such ambition. She was illiterate. By nature she wassimple, independent, persevering and, with me at least, reticent. She was not impatient of herignorance and I do not recollect my studies having ever spurred her to go in for a similaradventure. I fancy, therefore, that my ambition was all one- sided. My passion was entirely
centred on one woman, and I wanted it to be reciprocated. But even if there were no reciprocity, itcould not be all unrelieved misery because there was active love on one side at least.I must say I was passionately fond of her. Even at school I used to think of her, and the thought ofnightfall and our subsequent meeting was ever haunting me. Separation was unbearable. I usedto keep her awake till late in the night with my idle talk. If with this devouring passion there hadnot been in me a burning attachment to duty, I should either have fallen a prey to disease andpremature death, or have sunk into a burdensome existence. But the appointed tasks had to begone through every morning, and lying to anyone was out of the question. It was this last thingthat saved me from many a pitfall.I have already said that Kasturbai was illiterate. I was very anxious to teach her, but lustful loveleft me no time. For one thing the teaching had to be done against her will, and that too at night. Idared not meet her in the presence of the elders, much less talk to her. Kathiawad had then, andto a certain extent has even today, its own peculiar, useless and barbarous Purdah.Circumstances were thus unfavourable. I must therefore confess that most of my efforts toinstruct Kasturbai in our youth were unsuccessful. And when I awoke from the sleep of lust, I hadalready launched forth into public life, which did not leave me much spare time. I failed likewise toinstruct her through private tutors. As a result Kasturbai can now with difficulty write simple lettersand understand simple Gujarati. I am sure that, had my love for her been absolutely untaintedwith lust, she would be a learned lady today; for I could than have conquered her dislike forstudies. I know that nothing is impossible for pure love.I have mentioned one circumstance that more or less saved me from the disasters of lustful love.There is another worth noting. Numerous examples have convinced me that God ultimately saveshim whose motive is pure. Along with the cruel custom of child marriages, Hindu society hasanother custom which to a certain extent diminishes the evils of the former. Parents do not allowyoung couples to stay long. The child-wife spends more than half her time at her fathers place.Such was the case with us. That is to say, during the first five years of our married life (from theage of 13 to 18), we could not have lived together longer than an aggregate period of three years.We would hardly have spent six months together, when there would be a call to my wife from herparents. Such calls were very unwelcome in those days, But they saved us both. At the age ofeighteen I went to England, and this meant a long and healthy spell of separation. Even after myreturn from England we hardly stayed together longer than six months. For I had to run up anddown between Rajkot and Bombay. Then came the call from South Africa, and that found mealready fairly free from the carnal appetite. Chapter 5 AT THE HIGH SCHOOLI have already said that I was learning at the high school when I was married. We three brotherswere learning at the same school. The eldest brother was in a much higher class, and the brotherwho was married at the same time as I was, only one class ahead of me. Marriage resulted inboth of us wasting a year. Indeed the result was oven worse for my brother, for he gave upstudies altogether. Heaven knows how many youths are in the same plight as he. Only in ourpresent Hindu society do studies and marriage go thus hand in hand.My studies were continued. I was not regarded as a dunce at the high school. I always enjoyedthe affection of my teachers. Certificates of progress and character used to be sent to the parents
every year. I never had a bad certificate. In fact I even won prizes after I passed out of the secondstandard. In the fifth and sixth I obtained scholarships and rupees four and ten respectively, anachievement for which I have to thank good luck more than my merit. For the scholarships werenot open to all, but reserved for the best boys amongst those coming from the Sorath Division ofKathiawad. And in those days there could not have been many boys from Sorath in a class offorty to fifty.My own recollection is that I had not any high regard for my ability. I used to be astonishedwhenever I won prizes and scholarships. But I very jealously guarded my character. The leastlittle blemish drew tears from my eyes. When I merited, or seemed to the teacher to merit, arebuke, it was unbearable for me. I remember having once received corporal punishment. I didnot so much mind the punishment, as the fact that it was considered my desert. I wept piteously.That was when I was in the first or second standard. There was another such incident during thetime when I was in the seventh standard. Dorabji Edulji Gimi was the headmaster then. He waspopular among boys, as he was a disciplinarian, a man of method and a good teacher. He hadmade gymnastics and cricket compulsory for boys of the upper standards. I disliked both. I nevertook part in any exercise, cricket or football, before they were made compulsory. My shyness wasone of the reasons for this aloofness, which I now see was wrong. I then had the false notion thatgymnastics had nothing to do with education. Today I know that physical training should have asmuch place in the curriculum as mental training.I may mention, however, that I was none the worse for abstaining from exercise. That wasbecause I had read in books about the benefits of long walks in the open air, and having liked theadvice, I had formed a habit of taking walks, which has still remained with me. These walks gaveme a fairly hardy constitution.The reason of my dislike for gymnastics was my keen desire to serve as nurse to my father. Assoon as the school closed, I would hurry home and begin serving him. Compulsory exercisecame directly in the way of this service. I requested Mr. Gimi to exempt me from gymnastics sothat I might be free to serve my father. But he would not listen to me. Now it so happened thatone Saturday, when we had school in the morning, I had to go from home to the school forgymnastics at 4 oclock in the afternoon. I had no watch, and the clouds deceived me. Before Ireached the school the boys had all left. The next day Mr. Gimi, examining the roll, found memarked absent. Being asked the reason for absence, I told him what had happened. He refusedto believe me and ordered me to pay a fine of one or two annas (I cannot now recall how much).I was convicted of lying ! That deeply pained me. How was I to prove my innocence? There wasno way. I cried in deep anguish. I saw that a man of truth must also be a man of care. This wasthe first and last instance of my carelessness in school. I have a faint recollection that I finallysucceeded in getting the fine remitted. The exemption from exercise was of course obtained, asmy father wrote himself to the headmaster saying that he wanted me at home after school.But though I was none the worse for having neglected exercise, I am still paying the penalty ofanother neglect, I do not know whence I got the notion that good handwriting was not anecessary part of education, but I retained it until I went to England. When later, especially inSouth Africa, I saw the beautiful handwriting of lawyers and young men born and educated inSouth Africa, I was ashamed of myself and repented of my neglect. I saw that bad handwritingshould be regarded as a sign of an imperfect education. I tried later to improve mine, but it wastoo late. I could never repair the neglect of my youth. Let every young man and woman bewarned by my example, and understand that good handwriting is a necessary part of education. Iam now of opinion that children should first be taught the art of drawing before learning how towrite. Let the child learn his letters by observation as he does different objects, such as flowers,birds, etc., and let him learn handwriting only after he has learnt to draw objects. He will thenwrite a beautifully formed hand.
Two more reminiscences of my school days are worth recording. I had lost one year because ofmy marriage, and the teacher wanted me to make good the loss by skipping a class a privilegeusually allowed to industrious boys. I therefore had only six months in the third standard and wasprompted to he forth after the examinations which are followed by the summer vacation. Englishbecame the medium of instruction in most subjects from the fourth standard. I found myselfcompletely at sea. Geometry was a new subject in which I was not particularly strong, and theEnglish medium made it still more difficult for me. The teacher taught the subject very well, but Icould not follow him. Often I would lose heart and think of going back to the third standard, feelingthat the packing of two years studies into a single year was too ambitious. But this woulddiscredit not only me, but also the teacher; because, counting on my industry, he hadrecommended my promotion. So the fear of the double discredit kept me at my post. Whenhowever, with much effort I reached the thirteenth proposition of Euclid, the utter simplicity of thesubject was suddenly revealed to me. A subject which only required a pure and simple use ofones reasoning powers could not be difficult. Ever since that time geometry has been both easyand interesting for me.Samskrit, however, proved a harder task. In geometry there was nothing to memorize, whereas inSamskrit, I thought, everything had to be learnt by heart. This subject also was commenced fromthe fourth standard. As soon as I entered the sixth I became disheartened. The teacher was ahard taskmaster, anxious, as I thought, to force the boys. There was a sort of rivalry going onbetween the Samskrit and the Persian teachers. The Persian teacher was lenient. The boys usedto talk among themselves that Persian was very easy and the Persian teacher very good andconsiderate to the students. The easiness tempted me and one day I sat in the Persian class.The Samskrit teacher was grieved. He called me to his side and said: How can you forget thatyou are the son of a Vaishnava father? Wont you learn the language of your own religion? If youhave any difficulty, why not come to me? I want to teach you students Samskrit to the best of myability. As you proceed further, you will find in it things of absorbing interest. You should not loseheart. Come and sit again in the Samskrit class.This kindness put me to shame. I could not disregard my teachers affection. Today I cannot butthink with gratitude of Krishnashankar Pandya. For if I had not acquired the little Samskrit that Ihad learnt then, I should have found it difficult to take any interest in our sacred books. In fact Ideeply regret that I was not able to acquire a more thorough knowledge of the language, becauseI have since realized that every Hindu boy and girl should possess sound Samskrit learning.It is now my opinion that in all Indian curricula of higher education there should be a place forHindi, Samskrit, Persian, Arabic and English, besides of course the vernacular. This big list neednot frighten anyone. If our education were more systematic, and the boys free from the burden ofhaving to learn their subjects through a foreign medium, I am sure learning all these languageswould not be an irksome task. but a perfect pleasure. A scientific knowledge of one languagemakes a knowledge of other languages comparatively easy.In reality, Hindi, Gujarati and Samskrit may be regarded as one language, and Persian andArabic also as one. Though Persian belongs to the Aryan, and Arabic to the Semitic family oflanguages, there is a close relationship between Persian and Arabic, because both claim their fullgrowth through the rise of Islam. Urdu I have not regarded as a distinct language, because it hasadopted the Hindi grammar and its vocabulary is mainly Persian and Arabic, and he who wouldlearn good Urdu must learn Persian and Arabic, as one who would learn good Gujarati, Hindi,Bengali, or Marathi must learn Samskrit.
Chapter 6 A TRAGEDYAmongst my few friends at the high school I had, at different times, two who might be calledintimate. One of these friendships did not last long, though I never forsook my friend. He forsookme, because I made friends with the other. This latter friendship I regard as a tragedy in my life. Itlasted long. I formed it in spirit of a reformer.This companion was originally my elder brothers friend. They were classmates. I knew hisweaknesses, but I regarded him as a faithful friend. My mother, my eldest brother, and my wifewarned me that I was in bad company. I was too proud to heed my wifes warning. But I dared notgo against the opinion of my mother and my eldest brother. Nevertheless I pleaded with themsaying, I know he has the weaknesses you attribute to him, but you do not know his virtues. Hecannot lead me astray, as my association with him is meant to reform him. For I am sure that if hereforms his ways, he will be a splendid man. I beg you not to be anxious on my account.I do not think this satisfied them, but they accepted my explanation and let me go my way.I have seen since that I had calculated wrongly. A reformer cannot afford to have close intimacywith him whom he seeks to reform. True friendship is an identity of souls rarely to be found in thisworld. Only between like natures can friendship be altogether worthy and enduring. Friends reacton one another. Hence in friendship there is very little scope for reform. I am of opinion that allexclusive intimacies are to be avoided; for man takes in vice far more readily than virtue. And hewho would be friends with God must remain alone, or make the whole world his friend. I may bewrong, but my effort to cultivate an intimate friendship proved a failure.A wave of reform was sweeping over Rajkot at the time when I first came across this friend. Heinformed me that many of our teachers were secretly taking meat and wine. He also named manywell-known people of Rajkot as belonging to the same company. There were also, I was told,some high-school boys among them.I was surprised and pained. I asked my friend the reason and he explained it thus: We are aweak people because we do not eat meat. The English are able to rule over us, because they aremeat-eaters. You know how hardy I am, and how great a runner too. It is because I am a meat-eater. Meat-eaters do not have boils or tumours, and even if they sometimes happen to have any,these heal quickly. Our teachers and other distinguished people who eat meat are no fools. Theyknow its virtues. You should do likewise. There is nothing like trying. Try, and see what strength itgives.All these pleas on behalf of meat-eating were not advanced at a single sitting. They represent thesubstance of a long and elaborate argument which my friend was trying to impress upon me fromtime to time. My elder brother had already fallen. He therefore supported my friends argument. Icertainly looked feeble-bodied by the side of my brother and this friend. They were both hardier,physically stronger, and more daring. This friends exploits cast a spell over me. He could runlong distances and extraordinarily fast. He was an adept in high and long jumping. He could putup with any amount of corporal punishment. He would often display his exploits to me and, asone is always dazzled when he sees in others the qualities that he lacks himself, I was dazzled bythis friends exploits. This was followed by a strong desire to be like him. I could hardly jump orrun. Why should not I also be as strong as he?
Moreover, I was a coward. I used to be haunted by the fear of thieves, ghosts, and serpents. I didnot dare to stir out of doors at night. Darkness was a terror to me. It was almost impossible for meto sleep in the dark, as I would imagine ghosts coming from one direction, thieves from anotherand serpents from a third. I could not therefore bear to sleep without a light in the room. Howcould I disclose my fears to my wife, no child, but already at the threshold of youth, sleeping bymy side? I knew that she had more courage than I, and I felt ashamed of myself. She knew nofear of serpents and ghosts. She could go out anywhere in the dark. My friend knew all theseweaknesses of mine. He would tell me that he could hold in his hand live serpents, could defythieves and did not believe in ghosts. And all this was, of course, the result of eating meat.A doggerel of the Gujarati poet Narmad was in vogue amongst us schoolboys, as follows: Beholdthe mighty Englishman He rules the Indian small, Because being a meat-eater He is five cubitstall.All this had its due effect on me. I was beaten. It began to grow on me that meat-eating wasgood, that it would make me strong and daring, and that, if the whole county took to meat-eating,the English could be overcome.A day was thereupon fixed for beginning the experiment. It had to be conducted in secret. TheGandhis were Vaishnavas. My parents were particularly staunch Vaishnavas. They wouldregularly visit the Haveli. The family had even its own temples. Jainism was strong in Gujarat, andits influence was felt everywhere and on all occasions. The opposition to and abhorrence of meat-eating that existed in Gujarat among the Jains and Vaishnavas were to be seen nowhere else inIndia or outside in such strength. These were the traditions in which I was born and bred. And Iwas extremely devoted to my parents. I knew that the moment they came to know of my havingeaten meat, they would be shocked to death. Moreover, my love of truth made me extra cautious.I cannot say that I did not know then that I should have to deceive my parents if I began eatingmeat. But my mind was bent on the reform. It was not a question of pleasing the palate. I did notknow that it had a particularly good relish. I wished to be strong and daring and wanted mycountrymen also to be such, so that we might defeat the English and make India free. The wordSwaraj I had not yet heard. But I knew what freedom meant. The frenzy of the reform blindedme. And having ensured secrecy, I persuaded myself that mere hiding the deed from parents wasno departure from truth. Chapter 7 A TRAGEDY (contd.)So the day came. It is difficult fully to describe my condition. There were, on the one hand, thezeal for reform, and the novelty of making a momentous departure in life. There was, on theother, the shame of hiding like a thief to do this very thing. I cannot say which of the two swayedme more. We went in search of a lonely spot by the river, and there I saw, for the first time in mylife - meat. There was bakers bread also. I relished neither. The goats meat was as tough asleather. I simply could not eat it. I was sick and had to leave off eating.I had a very bad night afterwards. A horrible night-mare haunted me. Every time I dropped off tosleep it would seem as though a live goat were bleating inside me, and I would jump up full ofremorse. But then I would remind myself that meat-eating was a duty and so become morecheerful.
My friend was not a man to give in easily. He now began to cook various delicacies with meat,and dress them neatly. And for dining, no longer was the secluded spot on the river chosen, but aState house, with its dining hall, and tables and chairs, about which my friend had madearrangements in collusion with the chief cook there.This bait had its effect. I got over my dislike for bread, forswore my compassion for the goats, andbecame a relisher of meat-dishes, if not of meat itself. This went on for about a year. But notmore than half a dozen meat-feasts were enjoyed in all; because the State house was notavailable every day, and there was the obvious difficulty about frequently preparing expensivesavoury meat-dishes. I had no money to pay for this reform. My friend had therefore always tofind the wherewithal. I had no knowledge where he found it. But find it he did, because he wasbent on turning me into a meat-eater. But even his means must have been limited, and hencethese feasts had necessarily to be few and far between.Whenever I had occasion to indulge in these surreptitious feasts, dinner at home was out of thequestion. My mother would naturally ask me to come and take my food and want to know thereason why I did not wish to eat. I would say to her, I have no appetite today; there is somethingwrong with my digestion. It was not without compunction that I devised these pretexts. I knew Iwas lying, and lying to my mother. I also knew that, if my mother and father came to know of myhaving become a meat-eater, they would be deeply shocked. This knowledge was gnawing at myheart.Therefore I said to myself: Though it is essential to eat meat, and also essential to take up foodreform in the country, yet deceiving and lying to ones father and mother is worse than not eatingmeat. In their lifetime, therefore, meat-eating must be out of the question. When they are no moreand I have found my freedom, I will eat meat openly, but until that moment arrives I will abstainfrom it.This decision I communicated to my friend, and I have never since gone back to meat. Myparents never knew that two of their sons had become meat-eaters.I abjured meat out of the purity of my desire not to lie to my parents, but I did not abjure thecompany of my friend. My zeal for reforming him had proved disastrous for me, and all the time Iwas completely unconscious of the fact.The same company would have led me into faithlessness to my wife. But I was saved by the skinof my teeth. My friend once took me to a brothel. He sent me in with the necessary instructions. Itwas all prearranged. The bill had already been paid. I went into the jaws of sin, but God in Hisinfinite mercy protected me against myself. I was almost struck blind and dumb in this den of vice.I sat near the woman on her bed, but I was tongue-tied. She naturally lost patience with me, andshowed me the door, with abuses and insults. I then felt as though my manhood had beeninjured, and wished to sink into the ground for shame. But I have ever since given thanks to Godfor having saved me. I can recall four more similar incidents in my life, and in most of them mygood fortune, rather than any effort on my part, saved me. From a strictly ethical point of view, allthese occasions must be regarded as moral lapses; for the carnal desire was there, and it was asgood as the act. But from the ordinary point of view, a man who is saved from physicallycommitting sin is regarded as saved. And I was saved only in that sense. There are some actionsfrom which an escape is a godsend both for the man who escapes and for those about him. Man,as soon as he gets back his consciousness of right, is thankful to the Divine mercy for theescape. As we know that a man often succumbs to temptation, however much he say resist it, wealso know that Providence often intercedes and saves him in spite of himself. How all thishappens,- how far a man is free and how far a creature of carcumstances,- how far free-willcomes into play and where fate enters on the scene, all this is a mystery and will remain amystery.
But to go on with the story. Even this was far from opening my eyes to the viciousness of myfriends company. I therefore had many more bitter draughts in store for me, until my eyes wereactually opened by an ocular demonstration of some of his lapses quite unexpected by me. But ofthem later, as we are proceeding chronologically.One thing, however, I must mention now, as it pertains to the same period. One of the reasons ofmy differences with my wife was undoubtedly the company of this friend. I was both a devotedand a jealous husband, and this friend fanned the flame of my suspicions about my wife. I nevercould doubt his veracity. And I have never forgiven myself the violence of which I have beenguilty in often having pained my wife by acting on his information. Perhaps only a Hindu wifewould tolerate these hardships, and that is why I have regarded woman as an incarnation oftolerance. A servant wrongly suspected may throw up his job, a son in the same case may leavehis fathers roof, and a friend may put an end to the friendship. The wife, if she suspects herhusband, will keep quiet, but if the husband suspects her, she is ruined. Where is she to go? AHindu wife may not seek divorce in a law-court. Law has no remedy for her. And I can neverforget or forgive myself for a having driven my wife to that desperation.The canker of suspicion was rooted out only when I understood Ahimsa in all its bearings. I sawthen the glory of Brahmacharya and realized that the wife is not the husbands bondslave, but hiscompanion and his help-mate, and an equal partner in all his joy and sorrows - as free as thehusband to choose her own path. Whenever I think of those dark days of doubts and suspicions. Iam filled with loathing of my folly and my lustful cruelty, and I deplore my blind devotion to myfriend. Chapter 8 STEALING AND ATONEMENTI have still to relate some of my failings during this meat-eating period and also previous to it,which date from before my marriage or soon after.A relative and I became fond of smoking. Not that we saw any good in smoking, or wereenamoured of the smell of a cigarette. We simply imagined a sort of pleasure in emitting clouds ofsmoke from our mouths. My uncle had the habit, and when we saw him smoking, we thought weshould copy his example. But we had no money. So we began pilfering stumps of cigarettesthrown away by my uncle.The stumps, however, were not always available, and could not emit much smoke either. So webegan to steal coppers from the servants pocket money in order to purchase Indian cigarettes.But the question was where to keep them. We could not of course smoke in the presence ofelders. We managed somehow for a few weeks on these stolen coppers. In the meantime weheard that the stalks of a certain plant were porous and could be smoked like cigarettes. We gotthem and began this kind of smoking.But we were far from being satisfied with such things as these. Our want of independence beganto smart, It was unbearable that we should be unable to do anything without the elderspermission. At last, in sheer disgust, we decided to commit suicide!But how were we to do it? From where were we to get the poison? We heard that Dhatura seedswere an effective poison. Off we went to the jungle in search of these seeds, and got them.
Evening was thought to be the auspicious hour. We went to Kedarji Mandir , put ghee in thetemple-lamp, had the Darshan and then looked for a lonely corner. But our courage failed us.Supposing we were not instantly killed? And what was the good of killing ourselves? Why notrather put up with the lack of independence? But we swallowed two or three seeds nevertheless.We dared not take more. Both of us fought shy of death, and decided to go to Ramji Mandir tocompose ourselves, and to dismiss the thought of suicide.I realized that it was not as easy to commit suicide as to contemplate it. And since then,whenever I have heard of someone threatening to commit suicide, it has had little or on effect onme.The thought of suicide ultimately resulted in both of us bidding good- bye to the habit of smokingstumps of cigarettes and of stealing the servants coppers for the purpose of smoking.Ever since I have been grown up, I have never desired to smoke and have always regarded thehabit of smoking as barbarous, dirty and harmful. I have never understood why there is such arage for smoking throughout the world. I cannot bear to travel in a compartment full of peoplesmoking. I become choked.But much more serious than this theft was the one I was guilty of a little later. I pilfered thecoppers when I was twelve or thirteen, possibly less. The other theft was committed when I wasfifteen. In this case I stole a bit of gold out of my meat-eating brothers armlet. This brother hadrun into a debt of about twenty-five rupees. He had on his arm an armlet of solid gold. It was notdifficult to clip a bit out of it.Well, it was done, and the debt cleared. But this became more than I could bear. I resolved neverto steal again. I also made up my mind to confess it to my father. But I did not dare to speak. Notthat I was afraid of my father beating me. No I do not recall his ever having beaten any of us. Iwas afraid of the pain that I should cause him. But I felt that the risk should be taken; that therecould not be a cleaning without a clean confession.I decided at last to write out the confession, to submit it to my father, and ask his forgiveness. Iwrote it on a slip of paper and handed it to him myself. In this note not only did I confess my guilt,but I asked adequate punishment for it, and closed with a request to him not to punish himself formy offence. I also pledged myself never to steal in future.I was trembling as I handed the confession to my father. He was then suffering from a fistula andwas confined to bed. His bed was a plain wooden plank. I handed him the note and sat oppositethe plank.He read it through, and pearl-drops trickled down his cheeks, wetting the paper. For a moment heclosed his eyes in thought and then tore up the note. He had sat up to read it. He again lay down.I also cried. I could see my fathers agony. If I were a painter I could draw a picture of the wholescene today. It is still so vivid in my mind.Those pearl-drops of love cleansed my heart, and washed my sin away. Only he who hasexperienced such love can know what it is. As the hymn says: Only he Who is smitten with thearrows of love. Knows its power.This was, for me, an object-lesson in Ahimsa. Then I could read in it nothing more than a fatherslove, but today I know that it was pure Ahimsa. When such Ahimsa becomes all-embracing ittransforms everything it touches. There is no limit to its power.
This sort of sublime forgiveness was not natural to my father. I had thought that he would beangry, say hard things, and strike his forehead. But he was so wonderfully peaceful, and I believethis was due to my clean confession. A clean confession, combined with a promise never tocommit the sin again, when offered before one who has the right to receive it, is the purest type ofrepentance. I know that my confession made my father feel absolutely safe about me, andincreased his affection for me beyond measure. Chapter 9 MY FATHERS DEATH AND MY DOUBLE SHAMET he time of which I am now speaking is my sixteenth year. My father, as we have seen, wasbed-ridden, suffering from a fistula. My mother, an old servant of the house, and I were hisprincipal attendants. I had the duties of a nurse, which mainly consisted in dressing the wound.giving my father his medicine, and compounding drugs whenever they had to be made up athome, Every night I massaged his legs and retired only when he asked me to do so or after hehad fallen asleep. I loved to do this service. I do not remember ever having neglected it. All thetime at my disposal, after the performance of the daily duties, was divided between school andattending on my father. I would only go out for an evening walk either when he permitted me orwhen he was feeling well.This was also the time when my wife was expecting a baby,- a circumstance which, as I can seetoday, meant a double shame for me. For one thing I did not restrain myself, as I should havedone, whilst I was yet a student. And secondly, this carnal lust got the better of what I regardedas my duty to my parents, Shravana having been my ideal since childhood. Every night whilst myhands were busy massaging my fathers legs, my mind was hovering about the bed-room,- andthat too at a time when religion, medical science and commonsense alike forbade sexualintercourse. I was always glad to be relieved from my duty, and went straight to the bed-roomafter doing obeisance to my father.At the same time my father was getting worse every day. Ayurvedic physicians had tied all theirointments, Hakims their plasters, and local quacks their nostrums. An English surgeon had alsoused his skill. As the last and only resort he had recommended a surgical operation. But thefamily physician came in the way. He disapproved of an operation being performed at such anadvanced age. The physician was competent and well-known, and his advice prevailed. Theoperation was abandoned, and various medicines purchased for the purpose were of no account.I have an impression that, if the physician had allowed the operation, the wound would have beeneasily healed. The operation also was to have been performed by a surgeon who was then wellknown in Bombay. But God had willed otherwise. When death is imminent, who can think of theright remedy? My father returned from Bombay with all the paraphernalia of the operation, whichwere now useless. He despaired of living any longer, He was getting weaker and weaker, until atlast he had to be asked to perform the necessary functions in bed. But up to the last he refused todo anything of the kind, always insisting on going through the strain of leaving his bed. TheVaishnavite rules about external cleanliness are so inexorable.Such cleanliness is quite essential no doubt, but Western medical science had taught us that allthe functions, including a bath, can be done in bed with the strictest regard to cleanliness, andwithout the slightest discomfort to the patient, the bed always remaining spotlessly clean. I shouldregard such cleanliness as quite consistent with Vaishnavism. But my fathers insistence onleaving the bed only struck me with wonder then, and I had nothing but admiration for it.
The dreadful night came. My uncle was then in Rajkot. I have a faint recollection that he came toRajkot having had news that my father was getting worse. The brothers were deeply attached toeach other. My uncle would sit near my fathers bed the whole day, and would insist on sleepingby his bed-side after sending us all to sleep. No one had dreamt that this was to be the fatefulnight. The danger of course was there.It was 10-30 or 11 p.m. I was giving the massage. My uncle offered to relieve me. I was glad andwent straight to the bed-room. My wife, poor thing, was fast asleep. But how could she sleepwhen I was there? I woke her up. In five or six minutes. however, the servant knocked at thedoor. I started with alarm. Get up, he said, Father is very ill. I knew of course that he was veryill, and so I guessed what very ill meant at that moment. I sprang out of bed. What is the matter?Do tell me! Father is no more. So all was over! I had but to wring my hands. I felt deeplyashamed and miserable. I ran to my fathers room. I saw that, if animal passion had not blindedme. I should have been spared the torture of separation from my father during his last moments. Ishould have been massaging him, and he would have died in my arms. But now it was my unclewho had this privilege. He was so deeply devoted to his elder brother that he had earned thehonour of doing him the last services! My father had forebodings of the coming event. He hadmade a sign for pen and paper, and written: Prepare for the last rites. He had then snapped theamulet off his arm and also his gold necklace of tulasi beads and flung them aside. A momentafter this he was no more.The shame, to which I have refered in a foregoing chapter, was this of my carnal desire even atthe critical hour of my fathers death, which demanded wakeful service. It is a blot I have neverbeen able to efface or forget, and I have always thought that, although my devotion to my parentsknew no bounds and I would have given up anything for it, yet I was weighed and foundunpardonably wanting because my mind was at the same moment in the grip of lust. I havetherefore always regarded myself as a lustful. though a faithful, husband. It took me long to getfree from the shackles of lust, and I had to pass through many ordeals before I could overcome it.Before I close this chapter of my double shame. I may mention that the poor mite that was born tomy wife scarcely breathed for more than three or four days. Nothing else could be expected. Letall those who are married be warned by my example. Chapter 10 GLIMPSES OF RELIGIONFrom my sixth or seventh year up to my sixteenth I was at school, being taught all sorts ofthings except religion. I may say that I failed to get from the teachers what they could have givenme without any effort on their part. And yet I kept on picking up things here and there from mysurroundings. The term religion I am using in its broadest sense, meaning thereby self-realization or knowledge of self.Being born in the Vaishnava faith, I has often to go to the Haveli. But it never appealed to me. Idid not like its glitter and pomp. Also I heard rumours of immorality being practised there, and lostall interest in it. Hence I could gain nothing from the Haveli.But what I failed to get there I obtained from my nurse, an old servant of the family, whoseaffection for me I still recall. I have said before that there was in me a fear of ghosts and spirits.Rambha, for that was her name, suggested, as a remedy for this fear, the repetition of
Ramanama. I had more faith in her than in her remedy, and so at a tender age I began repeatingRamanama to cure my fear of ghosts and spirits. This was of course short-lived, but the goodseed sown in childhood was not sown in vain. I think it is due to the seed by that good womanRambha that today Ramanama is an infallible remedy for me.Just about this time, a cousin of mine who was a devotee of the Ramayana arranged for mysecond brother and me to learn Ram Raksha. We got it by heart, and made it a rule to recite itevery morning after the bath. The practice was kept up as long as we were in Porbandar. As soonas we reached Rajkot, it was forgotten. For I had not much belief in it. I recited it partly because ofmy pride in being able to recite Ram Raksha with correct pronunciation.What, however, left a deep impression on me was the reading of the Ramayana before my father.During part of his illness my father was in Porbandar. There every evening he used to listen to theRamayana. The reader was a great devotee of Rama,- Ladha Maharaj of Bileshvar. It was said ofhim that he cured himself of his leprosy not by any medicine, but by applying to the affected partsbilva leaves which had been cast away after being offered to the image of Mahadeva in Bileshvartemple, and by the regular repetition of Ramanama. His faith it, it was said, had made him whole.This may or may not be true. We at any rate believed the story. And it is a fact that when LadhaMaharaj began his reading of the Ramayana his body was entirely free from leprosy. He had amelodious voice. He would sing the Dohas (couplets) and Chopais (quatrains), and explain them,losing himself in the discourse and carrying his listeners along with him. I must have been thirteenat that time, but I quite remember being enraptured by his reading. That laid the foundation of mydeep devotion to the Ramayana. Today I regard the Ramayana of Tulasidas as the greatest bookin all devotional literature.A few months after this we came to Rajkot. There was no Ramayana reading there. TheBhagavat, however, used to be read on every Ekadashi day. Sometimes I attended the reading,but the reciter was uninspiring. Today I see that the Bhagavat is a book which can evoke religiousfervour. I have read it in Gujarati with intense interest. But when I heard portions of the originalread by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya during my twentyone days fast, I wished I had heard it inmy childhood from such a devote as he is, so that I could have formed a liking for it at an earlyage. Impressions formed at that age strike roots deep down into ones nature and it is myperpetual regret that I was not fortunate enough to hear more good books of this kind read duringthat period.In Rajkot, however, I got an early grounding in toleration for all branches of Hinduism and sisterreligions. For my father and mother would visit the Haveli as also Shivas and Ramas temples,and would take or send us youngsters there. Jain monks also would pay frequent visits to myfather, and would even go out of their way to accept food from us non-Jains. They would havetalks with my father on subjects religious and mundane.He had, besides, Musalman and Parsi friends, who would talk to him about their own faiths, andhe would listen to them always with respect, and often with interest. Being his nurse, I often had achance to be present at these talks. These many things combined to inculcate in me a tolerationfor all faiths.Only Christianity was at the time an exception. I developed a sort of dislike for it. And for areason. In those days Christian missionaries used to stand in a corner near the high school andhold forth, pouring abuse on Hindus and their gods. I could not endure this. I must have stoodthere to hear them once only, but that was enough to dissuade me from repeating theexperiment. About the same time, I heard of a well known Hindu having been converted toChristianity. It was the talk of the town that, when he was baptized, he had to eat beef and drinkliquor, that he also had to change his clothes, and that thenceforth he began to go about inEuropean costume including a hat. These things got on my nerves. Surely, thought I, a religionthat compelled one to eat beef, drink liquor, and change ones own clothes did not deserve the
name. I also heard that the new convert had already begun abusing the religion of his ancestors,their customs and their country. All these things created in me a dislike for Christianity.But the fact that I had learnt to be tolerant to other religions did not mean that I had any living faithin God. I happened, about this time, to come across Manusmriti which was amongst my fatherscollection. The story of the creation and similar things in it did not impress me very much, but onthe contrary made me incline somewhat towards atheism.There was a cousin of mine, still alive, for whose intellect I had great regard. To him I turned withmy doubts. But he could not resolve them. He sent me away with this answer: When you growup, you will be able to solve these doubts yourself. These questions ought not to be raised at yourage. I was silenced, but was not comforted. Chapters about diet and the like in Manusmritiseemed to me to run contrary to daily practice. To my doubts as to this also, I got the sameanswer.With intellect more developed and with more reading I shall understand it better, I said tomyself.Manusmriti at any rate did not then teach me ahimsa. I have told the story of my meat-eating.Manusmriti seemed to support it. I also felt that it was quite moral to kill serpents, bugs and thelike. I remember to have killed at that age bugs and such other insects, regarding it as a duty.But one thing took deep root in me the conviction that morality is the basis of things, and that truthis the substance of all morality. Truth became my sole objective. It began to grow in magnitudeevery day, and my definition of it also has been ever widening. A Gujarati didactic stanza likewisegripped my mind and heart. Its Precept-return good for evil-became my guiding principle. Itbecame such a passion with me that I began numerous experiments in it. Here are those (for me)wonderful lines: For a bowl of water give a goodly meal: For a kindly greeting bow thou down withzeal: For a simple penny pay thou back with gold: If thy life be rescued, life do not withhold. Thusthe words and actions of the wise regard; Every little service tenfold they reward. But the trulynoble know all men as one, And return with gladness good for evil done. Chapter 11 PREPARATION FOR ENGLANDI passed the matriculation examination in 1887. It then used to be held at two centres,Ahmedabad and Bombay. The general poverty of the country naturally led Kathiawad students toprefer the nearer and the cheaper centre. The poverty of my family likewise dictated to me thesame choice. This was my first journey from Rajkot to Ahmedabad and that too without acompanion.My elders wanted me to pursue my studies at college after the matriculation. There was a collegein Bhavnagar as well as in Bombay, and as the former was cheaper, I decided to go there andjoin the Samaldas College. I went, but found myself entirely at sea. Everything was difficult. Icould not follow, let alone taking interest in, the professors lectures. It was no fault of theirs. Theprofessors in that College were regarded as first-rate. But I was so raw. At the end of the firstterm, I returned home.We had in Mavji Dave, who was a shrewd and learned Brahman an old friend and adviser of thefamily. He had kept up his connection with the family even after my fathers death. He happened
to visit us during my vacation. In conversation with my mother and elder brother, he inquiredabout my studies. Learning that I was at Samaldas College, he said: The times are changed. Andnone of you can expect to succeed to your fathers gadi without having a proper education. Nowas this boy is still pursuing his studies, you should all look to him to keep the gadi. It will take himfour or five years to get his B.A. degree, which will at best qualify him for a sixty rupees post, notfor a Diwanship. If like my son he went in for law, it would take him still longer, by which timethere would be a host of lawyers aspiring for a Diwans post. I would far rather that you sent himto England. My son Kevalram says it is very easy to become a barrister. In three years time hewill return. Also expenses will not exceed four to five thousand rupees. Think of that barrister whohas just come back from England. How stylishly he lives! He could get the Diwanship for theasking. I would strongly advise you to send Mohandas to England this very year. Kevalram hasnumerous friends in England. He will give notes of introduction to them, and Mohandas will havean easy time of it there.Joshiji that is how we used to call old Mavji Dave turned to me with complete assurance, andasked: Would you not rather go to England than study here? Nothing could have been morewelcome to me. I was fighting shy of my difficult studies. So I jumped at the proposal and saidthat the sooner I was sent the better. It was no easy business to pass examinations quickly.Could I not be sent to qualify for the medical profession?My brother interrupted me: Father never liked it. He had you in mind when he said that weVaishnavas should have nothing to do with dissection of dead bodies. Father intended you for thebar.Joshiji chimed in : I am not opposed to the medical profession as was Gandhiji. Our Shastras arenot against it. But a medical degree will not make a Diwan of you, and I want you to be Diwan, orif possible something better. Only in that way could you take under your protecting care yourlarge family. The times are fast changing and getting harder every day. It is the wisest thingtherefore to become a barrister. Turning to my mother he said : Now, I must leave. Pray ponderover what I have said. When I come here next I shall expect to hear of preparations for England.Be sure to let me know if I can assist in any way.Joshiji went away, and I began building castles in the air.My elder brother was greatly exercised in his mind. How was he to find the wherewithal to sendme? And was it proper to trust a young man like me to go abroad alone?My mother was sorely perplexed. She did not like the idea of parting with me. This is how shetried to put me off: Uncle, she said, is now the eldest member of the family. He should first beconsulted. If he consents we will consider the matter.My brother had another idea. He said to me: We have a certain claim on the Porbandar State.Mr. Lely is the Administrator. He thinks highly of our family and uncle is in his good books. It isjust possible that he might recommend you for some State help for your education in England.I liked all this and got ready to start off for Porbandar. There was no railway in those days. It wasa five days bullock-cart journey. I have already said that I was a coward. But at that moment mycowardice vanished before the desire to go to England, which completely possessed me. I hired abullock-cart as far as Dhoraji, and from Dhoraji I took a camel in order to get to Porbandar a dayquicker. This was my first camel-ride.I arrived at last, did obeisance to my uncle, and told him everything. He thought it over and said :I am not sure whether it is possible for one to stay in England without prejudice to ones ownreligion. From all I have heard, I have my doubts. When I meet these big barristers, I see no
difference between their life and that of Europeans. They know no scruples regarding food.Cigars are never out of their mouths. They dress as shamelessly as Englishmen. All that wouldnot be in keeping with our family tradition. I am shortly going on a pilgrimage and have not manyyears to live. At the threshold of death, how dare I give you permission to go to England, to crossthe seas? But I will not stand in your way. It is your mothers permission which really matters. Ifshe permits you, then godspeed! Tell her I will not interfere. You will go with my blessings.I could expect nothing more from you, said I. I shall now try to win mother over. But would younot recommend me to Mr. Lely?How can I do that? said he. But he is a good man. You ask for an appointment telling him howyou are connected. He will certainly give you one and may even help you.I cannot say why my uncle did not give me a note of recommendation. I have a faint idea that hehesitated to co-operate directly in my going to England, which was in his opinion an irreligiousact.I wrote to Mr Lely, who asked me to see him at his residence. He saw me as he was ascendingthe staircase;and saying curtly, Pass your B.A. fist and then see me. No help can be given younow, he hurried upstairs. I had made elaborate preparations to meet him. I had carefully learnt upa few sentences and had bowed low and saluted him with both hands. But all to no purpose!I thought of my wifes ornaments. I thought of my elder brother, in whom I had the utmost faith.He was generous to a fault, and he loved me as his son.I returned to Rajkot from Porbandar and reported all that had happened. I consulted Joshiji, whoof course advised even incurring a debt if necessary. I suggested the disposal of my wifesornaments, which could fetch about two or three thousand rupees. My brother promised to findthe money somehow.My mother, however, was still unwilling. She had begun making minute inquiries. Someone hadtold her that young men got lost in England. Someone else had said that they took to meat; andyet another that they could not live there without liquor. How about all this? she asked me. I said:Will you not trust me? I shall not lie to you. I swear that I shall not touch any of those things. Ifthere were any such danger, would Joshiji let me go?I can trust you, she said.But how can I trust you in a distant land? I am dazed and know notwhat to do. I will ask Becharji Swami.Becharji Swami was originally a Modh Bania, but had now become a Jain monk. He too was afamily adviser like Joshiji. He came to my help, and said: I shall get the boy solemnly to take thethree vows, and then he can be allowed to go. He administered the oath and I vowed not totouch wine, woman and meat. This done, my mother gave her permission.The high school had a send-off in my honour. It was an uncommon thing for a young man ofRajkot to go to England. I had written out a few words of thanks. But I could scarcely stammerthem out. I remember how my head reeled and how my whole frame shook as I stood up to readthem.With the blessing of my elders, I started for Bombay. This was my first journey from Rajkot toBombay. This was my first journey from Rajkot to Bombay. My brother accompanied me. Butthere is many a slip, twixt the cup and the lip. There were difficulties to be faced in Bombay.
Chapter 12 OUTCASTEWith my mothers permission and blessings, I set off exultantly for Bombay, leaving my wifewith a baby of a few months. But on arrival there friends told my brother that the Indian Oceanwas rough in June and July, and as this was my first voyage, I should not be allowed to sail untilNovember. Someone also reported that a steamer had just been sunk in a gale. This made mybrother uneasy, and he refused to take the risk of allowing me to sail immediately. Leaving mewith a friend in Bombay, he returned to Rajkot to resume his duty. He put the money for mytravelling expenses in the keeping of a brother-in-law, and left word with some friends to give mewhatever help I might need.Time hung heavily on my hands in Bombay. I dreamt continually of going to England.Meanwhile my caste-people were agitated over my going abroad. No Modh Bania had been toEngland up to now, and if I dared to do so, I ought to be brought to book! A general meeting ofthe caste was called and I was summoned to appear before it. I went. Now I suddenly managedto muster up courage I do not know. Nothing daunted, and without the slightest hesitation, I camebefore the meeting. The Sheth- the headman of the community who was distantly related to meand had been on very good terms with my father, thus accosted me:In the opinion of the caste, your proposal to go to England is not proper. Our religion forbidsvoyages abroad. We have also heard that it is not possible to live there without compromising outreligion. One is obliged to eat and drink with Europeans!To which I replied: I do not think it is at all against our religion to go to England. I intend goingthere for further studies. And I have already solemnly promised to my mother to abstain fromthree things you fear most. I am sure the vow will keep me safe.But we tell you, rejoined the Sheth, that it is not possible to keep our religion there. You knowmy relations with your father and you ought to listen to my advice.I know those relations. said I. And you are as an elder to me. But I am helpless in this matter. Icannot alter my resolve to go to England. My fathers friend and adviser, who is a learnedBrahman, sees no objection to my gong to England, and my mother and brother have also givenme their permission.But will you disregard the orders of the caste?I am really helpless. I think the caste should not interfere in the matter.This incensed the Sheth. He swore at me. I sat unmoved. So the Sheth pronounced his order:This boy shall be treated as an outcaste from today. Whoever helps him or goes to see him off atthe dock shall be punishable with a fine of one rupee four annas.
The order had no effect on me, and I took my leave of the Sheth. But I wondered how my brotherwould take it. Fortunately he remained firm and wrote to assure me that I had his permission togo, the Sheths order notwithstanding.The incident, however, made me more anxious than ever to sail. What would happen if theysucceeded in bringing pressure to bear on my brother? Supposing something unforeseenhappened? As I was thus worrying over my predicament, I heard that a Junagadh vakil was goingto England, for being called to the bar, by a boat sailing on the 4th of September. I met the friendsto whose care my brother had commended me. They also agreed that I should not let go theopportunity of going in such company. There was no time to be lost. I wired to my brother forpermission, which he granted. I asked my brother-in-law to give me the money. But he referred tothe order of the Sheth and said that he could not afford to lose caste. I then sought a friend of thefamily and requested him to accommodate me to the extent of my passage and sundries, and torecover the loan from my brother. The friend was not only good enough to accede to my request,but he cheered me up as well. I was so thankful. With part of the money I at once purchased thepassage. Then I had to equip myself for the voyage. There was another friend who hadexperience in the matter. He got clothes and other things ready. Some of the clothes I liked andsome I did not like at all. The necktie, which I delighted in wearing later, I then abhorred. Theshort jacket I looked upon as immodest. But this dislike was nothing before the desire to go toEngland, which was uppermost in me. Of provisions also I had enough and to spare for thevoyage. A berth was reserved for me by my friends in the same cabin as that of Sjt. TryambakraiMazmudar, the Junagadh vakil. They also commended me to him. He was an experienced manof mature age and knew the world. I was yet a stripling of eighteen without any experience of theworld. Sjt. Mazmudar told my friends not to worry about me.I sailed at last from Bombay on the 4th of September. Chapter 13 IN LONDON AT LASTI did not feel at all sea-sick. But as the days passed, I became fidgety. I felt shy even inspeaking to the steward. I was quite unaccustomed to talking English, and except for Sjt.Mazmudar all the other passengers in the second saloon were English. I could not speak to them.For I could rarely follow their remarks when they came up to speak to me, and even when Iunderstood I could not reply. I had to frame every sentence in my mind, before I could bring it out.I was innocent of the use of knives and forks and had not the boldness to inquire what dishes onthe menu were free of meat, I therefore never took meals at table but always had them in mycabin, and they consisted principally of sweets and fruits which I had brought with me. Sjt.Mazmudar had no difficulty, and he mixed with everybody. He would move about freely on deck,while I hid myself in the cabin the whole day, only venturing up on deck when there were but fewpeople. Sjt. Mazmudar kept pleading with me to associate with the passengers and to talk withthem freely. He told me that lawyers should have a long tongue, and related to me his legalexperiences. He advised me to take every possible opportunity of talking English, and not to mindmaking mistakes which were obviously unavoidable with a foreign tongue. But nothing couldmake me conquer my shyness.An English passenger, taking kindly to me, drew me into conversation. He was older than I. Heasked me what I ate, what I was, where I was going, why I was shy, and so on. He also advisedme to come to table. He laughed at my insistence on abjuring meat, and said in a friendly way
when we were in the Red Sea: It is all very well so far but you will have to revise your decision inthe Bay of Biscay. And it is so cold in England that one cannot possibly live there without meat.But I have heard that people can live there without eating meat, I said.Rest assured it is a fib, said he. No one, to my knowledge, lives there without being a meat-eater. Dont you see that I am not asking you to take liquor, though I do so? But I do think youshould eat meat, for you cannot live without it.I thank you for your kind advice, but I have solemnly promised to my mother not to touch meat,and therefore I cannot think of taking it. If it be found impossible to get on without it, I will farrather go back to India than eat meat in order to remain there.We entered the Bay of Biscay, but I did not begin to feel the need either of meat or liquor. I hadbeen advised to collect certificates of my having abstained from met, and I asked the Englishfriend to give me one. He gladly gave it and I treasured it for some time. But when I saw later thatone could get such a certificate in spite of being a meat-eater, it lost all its charm for me. If myword was not to be trusted, where was the use of possessing a certificate in the matter?However, we reached Southampton, as far as I remember, on a Saturday. On the boat I had worna black suit, the white flannel one, which my friends had got me, having been kept especially forwearing when I landed. I had thought that white clothes would suit me better when I steppedashore, and therefore I did so in white flannels. Those were the last days of September, and Ifound I was the only person wearing such clothes. I left in charge of an agent of Grindlay and Co.all my kit, including the keys, seeing that many others had done the same and I must follow suit.I had four notes of introduction : to Dr. P. J. Mehta, to Sjt. Dalpatram Shukla, to Prince Ranjitsinhjiand to Dadabhai Naoroji. Someone on board had advised us to put up at the Victoria Hotel inLondon. Sjt Mazmudar and I accordingly went there. The shame of being the only person in whiteclothes was already too much for me. And when at the Hotel I was told that I should not get mythings from Grindlays the next day, it being a Sunday, I was exasperated.Dr. Mehta, to whom I had wired from Southampton, called at about eight oclock the sameevening. He gave me a hearty greeting. He smiled at my being in flannels. As we were talking. Icasually picked up his top- hat, and trying to see how smooth it was, passed my hand over it thewrong way and disturbed the fur. Dr. Mehta looked somewhat angrily at what I was doing andstopped me. But the mischief had been done. The incident was a warning for the future. This wasmy first lesson in European etiquette, into the details of which Dr. Mehta humorously initiated me.Do not touch other peoples things, he said. Do not ask questions as we usually do in India onfirst acquaintance; do not talk loudly; never address people as sir whilst speaking to them as wedo in India; only servants and subordinates address their masters that way; And so on and soforth. He also told me that it was very expensive to live in a hotel and recommended that I shouldlive with a private family. We deferred consideration of the matter until Monday.Sjt.Mazmudar and I found the hotel to be a trying affair. It was also very expensive. There was,however, a Sindhi fellow-passenger from Malta who had become friends with Sjt Mazmudar, andas he was not a stranger to London, he offered to find rooms for us. We agreed,and on Monday,as soon as we got our baggage, we paid up our bills and went to the rooms rented for us by theSindhi friend. I remember my hotel bill came to £ 3 an amount which shocked me. And I hadpractically starved in spite of this heavy bill! For I could relish nothing. When I did not like onething, I asked for another, but had to pay for both just the same. The fact is that all this while I haddepended on the provisions which I had brought with me from Bombay.
I was very uneasy even in the new rooms. I would continually think of my home and country. Mymothers love always hunted me. At night the tears would stream down my cheeks, and homememories of all sorts made sleep out of the question. It was impossible to share my misery withanyone. And even if I could have done so, where was the use? I knew of nothing that wouldsoothe me. Everything was strange-the people, their ways, and even their dwellings. I was acomplete novice in the matter of English etiquette and continually had to be on my guard. Therewas the additional inconvenience of the vegetarian vow. Even the dishes that I could eat weretasteless and insipid. I thus found myself between Scylla and Charybdis. England I could notbear, but to return to India was not to be thought of. Now that I had come, I must finish the threeyears, said the inner voice. Chapter 14 MY CHOICEDr. Mehta went on Monday to the Victoria Hotel expecting to find me there. He discovered thatwe had left, got our new address, and met me at our rooms. Through sheer folly I had managedto get ringworm on the boat. For washing and bathing we used to have sea-water, in which soapis not soluble. I, however, used soap, taking its use to be a sign of civilization, with the result thatinstead of cleaning the skin it made it greasy. This gave me ringworm. I showed it to Dr. Mehta,who told me to apply acetic acid. I remember how the burning acid made me cry. Dr. Mehtainspected my room and its appointments and shook his head in disapproval. This place wont do,he said. We come to England not so much for the purpose of studies as for gaining experience ofEnglish life and customs. And for this you need to live with a family. But before you do so, I thinkyou had better serve a period of apprenticeship with -. I will take you there.I gratefully accepted the suggestion and removed to the friends rooms. He was all kindness andattention. He treated me as his own brother, initiated me into English ways and manners, andaccustomed me to talking the language. My food, however, became a serious question. I couldnot relish boiled vegetables cooked without salt or condiments. The landlady was at a loss toknow what to prepare for me. We had oatmeal porridge for breakfast, which was fairly filling, but Ialways starved at lunch and dinner. The friend continually reasoned with me to eat meat, but Ialways pleaded my vow and then remained silent. Both for luncheon and dinner we had spinachand bread and jam too. I was a good eater and had a capacious stomach; but I was ashamed toask for more than two or three slices of bread, as it did not seem correct to do so. Added to this,there was no milk either for lunch or dinner. The friend once got disgusted with this state ofthings, and said: Had you been my own brother, I would have sent you packing. What is thevalue of a vow made before an illiterate mother, and in ignorance of conditions here? It is no vowat all. It would not be regarded as a vow in law. It is pure superstition to stick to such a promise.And I tell you this persistence will not help you to gain anything here. You confess to having eatenand relished met. You took it where it was absolutely unnecessary, and will not where it is quiteessential. What a pity!But I was adamant.Day in and day out the friend would argue, but I had an eternal negative to face him with. Themore he argued, the more uncompromising I became. Daily I would pray for Gods protection andget it. Not that i had any idea of God. It was faith that was at work-faith of which the seed hadbeen sown by the good nurse Rambha.
One day the friend began to read to me Benthams Theory of Utility. I was at my wits end. Thelanguage was too difficult for me to understand. He began to expound it. I said: Pray excuse me.These abstruse things are beyond me. I admit it is necessary to eat meat. But I cannot break myvow. I cannot argue about it. I am sure I cannot meet you in argument. But please give me up asfoolish or obstinate. I appreciate your love for me and I know you to be my well-wisher. I alsoknow that you are telling me again and again about this because you feel for me. But I amhelpless. A vow is a vow. It cannot be broken.The friend looked at me in surpirse. He closed the book and said: All right. I will not argue anymore. I was glad. He never discussed the subject again. But he did not cease to worry about me.He smoked and drank, but he never asked me to do so. In fact he asked me to remain away fromboth. His one anxiety was lest I should become very weak without meat, and thus be unable tofeel at home in England.That is how I served my apprenticeship for a month. The friends house was in Richmond, and itwas not possible to go to London more than once or twice a week. Dr. Mehta and Sjt. DalparamShukla therefore decided that I should be put with some family. Sjt. Shukla hit upon an Anglo-Indians house in West Kensington and placed me there. The landlady was a widow. I told herabout my vow. The old lady promised to look after me properly, and I took up my residence in herhouse. Here too I practically had to starve. I had sent for sweets and other eatables from home,but nothing had yet come. Everything was insipid. Every day the old lady asked me whether Iliked the food, but what could she do? I was still as shy as ever and dared not ask for more thanwas put before me. She had two daughters. They insisted on serving me with an extra slice ortwo of bread. But little did they know that nothing less than a loaf would have filled me.But I had found my feet now. I had not yet started upon my regular studies. I had just begunreading newspapers, thanks to Sjt. Shukla. In India I had never read a newspaper. But here Isucceeded in cultivating a liking for them by regular reading. I always glanced over The DailyNews, The Daily Telegraph, and The Pall Mall Gazette . This took me hardly an hour. I thereforebegan to wander about. I launched out in search of a vegetarian restaurant. The landlady had toldme that there were such places in the city. I would trot ten or twelve miles each day, go into acheap restaurant and eat my fill of bread, but would never be satisifed. During these wanderings Ionce hit on a vegetarian restaurant in Farringdon Street. The sight of it filled me with the same joythat a child feels on getting a thing after its own heart. Before I entered I noticed books for saleexhibited under a glass window near the door. I saw among them Salts Plea for Vegetarianism.This I purchased for a shilling and went straight to the dining room. This was my first hearty mealsince my arrival in England. God had come to my aid.I read Salts book from cover to cover and was very much impressed by it. From the date ofreading this book, I may claim to have become a vegetarian by choice. I blessed the day onwhich I had taken the vow before my mother. I had all along abstained from meat in the interestsof truth and of the vow I had taken, but had wished at the same time that every Indian should be ameat-eater, and had looked forward to being one myself freely and openly some day, and toenlisting others in the cause. The choice was now made in favour of vegetarianism, the spread ofwhich henceforward became my mission.
Chapter 15 PLAYING THE ENGLISH GENTLEMANM y faith in vegetarianism grew on me from day to day. Salts book whetted my appetite fordietetic studies. I went in for all books available on on vegetaranism and read them. One of these,Howard Williams The Ethics of Diet, was biographical history of the literature of humane dieteticsfrom the earliest period to the present day.It tried to make out, that all philosophers and prophetsfrom Pythagoras and Jesus down to those of the present age were vegetarians. Dr. AnnaKingsfords The Perfect Way in Diet was also an attractive book. Dr. Allinsons writings on healthand hygiene were likewise very helpful. He advocated a curative system based on regulation ofthe dietary of patients. Himself a vegetarian, he prescribed for his patients also a strictlyvegetarian diet. The result of reading all this literature was that dietetic experiments came to takean important place in my life. Health was the principal consideration of these experiments tobegin with. But later on religion became the supreme motive.Meanwhile my friend had not ceased to worry about me. His love for me led him to think that, if Ipersisted in my objections to meat-eating, I should not only develop a weak constitution, butshould remain a duffer, because I should never feel at home in English society. When he came toknow that I had begun to interest myself in books on vegetarianism, he was afraid lest thesestudies should muddle my head; that I should fritter my life away in experiments, forgetting myown work, and become a crank. He therefore made one last effort to reform me. He one dayinvited me to go to the theatre. Before the play we were to dine together at the HolbornRestaurant, to me a palatial place and the first big restaurant I had been to since leaving theVictoria Hotel. The stay at that hotel had scarcely been a helpful experience, for I had not livedthere with my wits about me. The friend had planned to take me to this restaurant evidentlyimagining that modesty would forbid any questions. And it was a very big company of diners inthe midst of which my friend and I sat sharing a table between us. The first course was soup. Iwondered what it might be made of, but durst not ask the friend about it. I therefore summonedthe waiter. My friend saw the movement and sternly asked across the table what was the matter.With considerable hesitation I told him that I wanted to inquire if the soup was a vegetable soup.You are too clumsy for decent society, he passionately exclaimed If you cannot behave yourself,you had better go. Feed in some other restaurant and await me outside. This delighted me. Out Iwent. There was a vegetarian restaurant close by, but it was closed. So I went without food thatnight. I accompanied my friend to the theatre, but he never said a word about the scene I hadcreated. On my part of course there was nothing to say.That was the last friendly tussle we had. It did not affect our relations in the least. I could see andappreciate the love by which all my friends efforts were actuated, and my respect for him was allthe greater on account of our differences in thought and action.But I decided that I should put him at ease, that I should assure him that I would be clumsy nomore, but try to become polished and make up for my vegetarianism by cultivating otheraccomplishments which fitted one for polite soceity. And for this purpose I undertook the all tooimpossible task of becoming an English gentleman.The clothes after the Bombay cut that I was wearing were, I thought unsuitable for Englishsociety, and I got new ones at the Army and Navy stores. I also went in for a chimney-pot hatcosting nineteen shillings an excessive price in those days. Not content with this, I wasted tenpounds on an evening suit made in Bond Street, the centre of fashionable life in London; and gotmy good and noble-hearted brother to send me a double watch-chain of gold. It was not correct towear a ready-made tie and I learnt the art of tying one for myself. While in India, the mirror had
been a luxury permitted on the days when the family barber gave me a shave. Here I wasted tenminutes every day before a huge mirror, watching myself arranging my tie and parting my hair inthe correct fashion. My hair was by no means soft, and every day it meant a regular struggle withthe brush to keep it in position. Each time the hat was put on and off, the hand wouldautomatically move towards the head to adjust the hair, not to mention the other civilized habit ofthe hand every now and then operating for the same purpose when sitting in polished society.As if all this were not enough to make me look the thing, I directed my attention to other detailsthat were supposed to go towards the making of an English gentleman. I was told it wasnecessary for me to take lessons in dancing, French and elocution. French was not only thelanguage of neighbouring France, but it was the lingua franca of the Continent over which I had adesire to travel. I decided to take dancing lessons at a class and paid down £ 3 as fees for a term.I must have taken about six lessons in three weeks. But it was beyond me To achieve anythinglike rhythmic motion. I could not follow the piano and hence found it impossible to keep time.What then was I to do? The recluse in the fable kept a cat to keep off the rats, and then a cow tofeed the cat with milk, and a man to keep the cow and so on. My ambitions also grew like thefamily of the recluse. I thought I should learn to play the violin in order to cultivate an ear forWestern music. So I invested £3 in a violin and something more in fees. I sought a third teacherto give me lessons in elocution and paid him a preliminary fee of a guinea. He recommendedBells Standard Elocutionist as the text-book, which I purchased. And I began with a speech ofPitts.But Mr. Bell rang the bell of alarm in my ear and I awoke.I had not to spend a lifetime in England, I said to myself. What then was the use of learningelocution? And how could dancing make a gentleman of me? The violin I could learn even inIndia. I was a student and ought to go on with my studies. I should qualify myself to join the Innsof Court. If my character made a gentleman of me, so much the better. Otherwise I should foregothe ambition.These and similar thoughts possessed me, and I expressed them in a letter which I addressed tothe elocution teacher, requesting him to excuse me from further lessons. I had taken only two orthree. I wrote a similar letter to the dancing teacher, and went personally to the violin teacher witha request to dispose of the violin for any price it might fetch. She was rather friendly to me, so Itold her how I had discovered that I was pursuing a false idea. She encouraged me in thedetermination to make a complete change.This infatuation must have lasted about three months. The punctiliousness in dress persisted foryears. But henceforward I became a student. Chapter 16 CHANGESLet no one imagine that my experiments in dancing and the like marked a stage of indulgence inmy life. The reader will have noticed that even then I had my wits about me. That period ofinfatuation was not unrelieved by a certain amount of self-introspection on my part. I kept accountof every farthing I spent, and my expenses were carefully calculated. Every little item such asomnibus fares or postage or a couple of coppers spent on newspapers, would be entered, andthe balance struck every evening before going to bed. That habit has stayed with me ever since,and I know that as a result, though I have had to handle public funds amounting to lakhs, I have